Let me ask you a question.
If you were exiled to a foreign land then found out there was a decree put out calling for a mass extermination of anyone from your lineage, what would you do?
How about if you were ruling a nation, and a man clearly sent from God comes to your capital to tell everyone that because of sin in your land, your whole city and everyone in of it will be destroyed 40 days from now. What would you do?
Or what about this one: you find yourself in an increasingly unstable country, just across the border from what’s being called the greatest humanitarian crisis of your generation. There, hundreds and thousands of people are getting killed on a daily basis by bombs, tanks, and guns. Millions more have fled with nowhere to go, and so live under tarps, unable to return home because of the eminence of death if they were to do so. At the same time, the country you’re living in is potentially on the verge of reversing the last 100 years of progress by regressing from the current democratic system to an essentially religious dictatorship. If that were to happen, it’s quite possible the situation could devolve into a civil war much like the aforementioned one men and women were fleeing from, causing thousands more deaths, and endangering millions of more lives. Oh, also, 99.99% of these men, women, and children have no idea of who Jesus is, and so are living and dying without a hope of salvation.
If you found yourself in that situation, what would you do?
If you know your Bible, the first two scenarios shouldn’t be hard to identify.
Who was living as an exile and received word her entire race was marked for extermination? None other than Queen Esther herself.
And who was the powerful ruler over a city who was given a 40 day notice of destruction? That’d be the King of Nineveh.
What did they do when presented with these precarious situations?
Well, after some talking and convincing from her uncle, Esther gave this response:
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” ~ Esther 4:16
And what of the King of Nineveh?
“He issued a proclamation and said, ‘In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles: No human or animal, cattle or sheep, is to taste anything; they must not eat and they must not drink water. Every person and animal must put on sackcloth and must cry earnestly to God, and everyone must turn from their evil way of living and from the violence that they do.’” ~ Jonah 3:7-8
They dropped everything and called a fast among those they had influence over, and they dug deep into fasting and praying themselves. To what end? To seek God’s deliverance from the inevitable calamities.
And what happened?
God intervened! Both the Jews in Esther and the Ninevites in Jonah were saved from their otherwise eminent destruction.
Now, if you know me or have been following my story, you should recognize the third scenario, though maybe with a few details you’re not up-to-date on. You probably even have an idea where this post is going.
I live in the Middle East. For those in the West, it’s an area which often calls to mind more fear and stereotypes of danger, destruction, and death than probably anywhere else in the world. That’s been the case for as long as I can remember. I first visited this country about four years ago. At the time, I was surprised at how far my stereotypes of the country were from reality. These weren’t murderous savages just waiting for an infidel to come along to kill; they were people like you and me, with sympathetic hearts, hospitable to strangers, and always ready to have a cup of tea with you. Since then I’ve fallen more and more in love with this country’s people, culture, with what God is doing here, and of course, with the food. 😉
However, over the course of the last 12 months there have been a lot of concerning developments in this country. I won’t get into all the details here, but Google can give you an idea.
I mentioned in my prayer letter recently how amazing it is to be back here because of how easy it is to get into conversations about faith, but the last couple months have also been quite unique because there’s been a tangible oppression that we’ve felt any time we’ve gone out to share Jesus with people. I recently went on a 3 day hiking/evangelism trip with some friends. We aimed to walk and pray through parts of the country we hadn’t been yet, as well as to share Jesus with and pray for as many people as we could in the process. It was fascinating, because while most people were gracious and let us pray for them and share with them, in that whole time we saw very little fruit: not much interest in what we had to share, basically no evidence of healing when we prayed, etc.
That bugged me.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be, and that’s not how I know God works in this country.
So I started praying into it and asking what was up with this oppression thing. One night a few days after this hike at a prayer meeting (incidentally the same prayer meeting that spawned this post last year), I asked some of my friends if they’d been experiencing anything similar to me. Amazingly, every one of them was experiencing either the same thing, or something similar. As we talked, we realized that ever since the events of last July (again, go Google it), it’s felt like there has been this spiritual cloudiness over the entire country. We realized a few reasons why that would be, ultimately coming back to it being part of the enemy’s attack on the country in this season. We also talked about the rapidly approaching referendum, and how the spiritual fogginess seems to be playing into that.
As we were talking, and then in our worship and prayer time after, I felt a nudge in my spirit. Like Holy Spirit was saying, “During times of darkness and crisis, it’s the responsibility of My Kids to shine light and peace. And that’s not always through ministry. In times like this, it comes through fasting and prayer.”
That was accompanied by another thought: “what if you did a 40-day/6-week no-food fast for this country?”
The second thought came as more of a shock, as you could imagine. However, I’ve come to understand that thoughts in my head that seem scary and like things I would never do under normal circumstances often have their origin not in my mind, but in God’s. So I wrote down the idea, and prayed into it during the rest of the prayer meeting. What was amazing was that there were several notable confirmations of that word within the next few minutes.
At the end of the meeting, someone said “I really feel like I’m supposed to read this passage right now,” and started reading Isaiah 58, a passage about fasting, which includes this verse:
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” ~ Isaiah 58:8
This being the third or fourth confirmation, I was sold. I started fasting that night. I just passed the halfway point this past Sunday.
Why am I telling this story?
I debated making this a public fast for various reasons. When I was a kid someone told me that Matthew 6:16 meant that if you told anyone that you were fasting, it completely negated your fast, so you should never tell anyone. Since then I’ve received better teaching on that verse and I realize that’s not what Jesus was getting at (He’s talking about doing it in humility before God, instead of to show your religiosity; not keeping it a complete secret).
But still, why the in-depth story on this?
Well, it’s simple, really.
I believe God wants to work in the Middle East. I believe He wants peace here. I believe He wants this country to remain free and a place where the Gospel can spread without hindrance. I believe that He wants to clear away the spiritual fogginess to make His Son clearly visible to every Muslim man, woman, and child in this country. I believe He doesn’t want a civil war to break out here. I believe He wants to bring about an end to the Syrian Civil War. I believe He wants ISIS and Al Qaeda to fall. I believe He wants to impact, save, and transform every life involved in every facet of these conflicts. And I believe He wants to send out men and women like you and me to be involved in that. And even though these situations seem to be continually heading towards greater and greater darkness and chaos, I believe we have a role and responsibility to play in seeing these crises turned in a different direction. Like a hinge of history, if you will. (Not my term; it comes from the book mentioned below.)
After starting this fast I read a book by Lou Engle called The Jesus Fast (I highly recommend you go read it). In it, he often references a book called Atomic Power with God through Fasting and Prayer by Franklin Hall. He talks about how stepping out in obedience and aligning ourselves with God’s heart through fasting and praying is as much more powerful for effecting massive change when compared to just simply doing ministry/prayer of ourselves, as a nuclear bomb is more powerful than traditional guns and bombs. One notable quote that stuck with me was this:
“Nuclear power ends wars.” (pg. 133)
So I want to invite you to fast and pray with me to that end.
There are 19 days left until Easter as of when I’m posting this (Easter also happens to be the day of the referendum I’m fasting until). Would you be willing to fast and pray with me to some extent during that remaining time, to see peace, God’s Kingdom, and the Bride of Christ established in this country and in this region, and to see more and more laborers sent out into the harvest field (Matt. 9:38)? That doesn’t necessarily mean giving up all food for that time (though you’re certainly welcome to join me in that if you feel so compelled; if you do, give this article a quick read first). It might mean fasting a couple meals a week and taking that time to pray instead; or perhaps a Daniel style “fast” – no meats, no sweets (See Daniel 10:3) – like one of my teacher friends here in country has committed to. But I’d like to invite you to be fasting and interceding with me in some way leading up to April 16th.
Again from Lou’s book:
“Revival is not a formula; but in times of crisis, there is a code. The code is found in the call of Joel’s letter.” (pg. 55).
The “call of Joel’s letter” being Joel 2:15:
“Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly.”
Would you consider joining me in following that “code” in this season, to see revival come to pass here?